Washington phase 3 counties are on hold, but some counties are still stuck in phase 2

Gov. Jay Inslee’s two-week pause on reopening restrictions has prompted criticism from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers from the three counties that are currently in Phase 2 who argue that, given the infection rates in those three counties, they should move forward to Phase 3 immediately. Photo courtesy of Washington Policy Center
Gov. Jay Inslee’s two-week pause on reopening restrictions has prompted criticism from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers from the three counties that are currently in Phase 2 who argue that, given the infection rates in those three counties, they should move forward to Phase 3 immediately. Photo courtesy of Washington Policy Center

Mark Harmsworth of the Washington Policy Center discusses Gov. Jay Inslee’s two-week pause of restriction rules

Mark Harmsworth
Washington Policy Center

This opinion piece was produced and first published by the Washington Policy Center. It is published here with the permission of and full attribution to the Washington Policy Center. 

Mark Harmsworth

On May 4, Governor Inslee put the phased COVID restriction rules on pause for two weeks while the state reviews the COVID infection rates. King, Snohomish and several other counties that, under the administration’s rules, should have rolled back to Phase 2, were held in Phase 3.

This has prompted criticism from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers from the three counties that are currently in Phase 2 who argue that, given the infection rates in those three counties, they should move forward to Phase 3 immediately.

Lawmakers wrote to the Governor on May 6, expressing their frustration and threatening to call for a special session to “weigh legislative options.” The letter indicates that lawmakers from Pierce, Cowlitz and Whitman counties are not being treated fairly and the rules are not being applied consistently.

Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, told the The News Tribune, “There is reason for people to be frustrated, and it feels like the rules are changing, and they aren’t benefiting Pierce County.”

Additionally, the Washington Hospitality Association launched a media campaign on May 6 calling for a full re-opening of the state by June 15. In a press release, the association calls out the fact that “Reopening June 15 would put Washington in line with California. Democratic governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have all announced they will reopen fully on May 19. And the President of the United States and the Governor of Oregon have announced reopening by July 1.”

As Washington Policy Center (WPC) has previously reported, restrictive lockdowns do not work and do not significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19.  This is not surprising, since lockdown policies are based on faulty assumptions about the primary source of COVID-19 infections. State officials assume small business, restaurants and other hospitality services are where the majority of new infections originate, but science shows this is not the case.

The inconsistent application of the rules and changing rules at the last minute, introduces uncertainty and instability into the job market, hurting workers and destroys business. Businesses that have to hire and fire employees based on the changing occupancy limits of the business, cannot plan for the future and create stable long term employment for employees.

The lockdown restrictions on our state should be lifted especially as more people are being vaccinated including front-line workers and reasonable health guidelines allowed. Businesses in other states are operating safely. This is the right approach to re-opening our state’s businesses safely.

For more on re-opening the economy under medical guidelines, see Dr Roger Stark’s article on the “The Medical Argument for Reopening the Economy.’’

Mark Harmsworth is the director of the small business center at the Washington Policy Center.

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